Friday, April 27, 2007


"Jewish Press" interviews Scranton University professor Marc B. Shapiro. Some of his answers are surprising. Shapiro is discussing his recent books, two of which were National Jewish Book Award finalists:

Rabbi Weinberg wrote that “perhaps we [the Jewish people] also bear some guilt” for anti-Semitism. What did he mean by that?

Rabbi Weinberg raised the possibility that perhaps the way Jews treat non-Jews contributes to anti-Semitism. He no doubt had in mind things such as how the Jew treated the Polish peasant and wondered if this didn’t have some impact on how the Poles viewed the Jews. Many Orthodox Jews thought it was okay to be less than honest in their business dealing with non-Jews.

Rabbi Weinberg argued that we must formally declare that we hold like the Meiri [13th century French sage], that all the negative things in the Talmud against non-Jews were only stated with regard to the wicked pagans of old, but didn’t apply to non-Jews as a whole.

We must relate to non-Jews just like to Jews, being absolutely honest in all monetary matters and regard them as having dignity as creations of God.

Do you find special meaning in teaching Judaism to Christian students in a Jesuit school (the University of Scranton)?

Well, first, the people I work with are chassidei umos ha’olam. I will also tell you that the two volumes of Rabbi Weinberg I published in Hebrew were published with the assistance of the university, which might be the only two seforim in history ever published with money from a Catholic university.

This isn’t 50 years ago. I asked my students the first day of the Holocaust course, “Does anyone know the expression ‘Christ killer?’ “– and more than half of them never heard the expression, something their parents and grandparents all knew from birth.

There’ve been great changes in the Catholic Church and there’s a great respect for Judaism and for Jews; many Catholic thinkers see Jews as the older brothers of Catholics. I think it behooves us to acknowledge the real changes in the Church and try to contribute to make sure these changes continue and that we treat them with the respect that they’re treating us.

Do you think it advantageous that you, an Orthodox Jew, are teaching these students rather than a Conservative or Reform Jew?

Christianity rejects Jewish law, so if you get a Reform rabbi up there whose attitude is also that the law isn’t important, they really don’t get an understanding of how Judaism differs. If you have someone who affirms the significance of Jewish law, they get a sense of what true Judaism is.

Many of these students come from small towns in Pennsylvania. They’ve never met a Jew before, they don’t know what a knish is. This is their first exposure and will last them a lifetime.

Read the entire interview...

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